Technically, it's still winter.
In most years, Cleveland would be in the throes of frost and sleet. February, though, has snuck through this year with little to say. I've lived here long enough to know that the cold can still rear up. I've witnessed the April ice storms.
There's a reason other than weather that this spring seems so robust. It rests in an ambitious team that's stretching its legs in Arizona. A team of baseball players that, despite coming up tantalizingly short of a World Series championship, still felt like seasoned winners.
Spring training in a year after achievement – it's a particularly refreshing brand of Cleveland Indians baseball. There's no winter ice or losing-season disappointment to shake off. None of the hope is manufactured. It's palpable and warranted.
When I was really young, I used to collect baseball cards with all the naiveté my age implied. I didn't have any preference for valuable rookie cards or even players I knew. In any closeout store or toy shop that had clearance-rack packs of cards, I was sure to ask my dad to buy me a few. I remember getting scads of cards from garage sales that featured players from the 70s and early 80s that I hadn't ever seen play.
Every few months, I would unpack all the new baseball cards I had gotten and throw them into a big, haphazard pile on the coffee table. I would even unsheathe the cards I had already organized into binders and add them to the muddled mass.
It was my little ritual for keeping my baseball giddiness high. I would sit there and sort the cards into piles alphabetized by surname, and then back into the binders they went. Then, after those few months, the ritual would rinse and repeat.
Maybe I was a weird kid who liked alphabetizing way too much. That's an entirely valid point. That giddiness, though – that desire to just escape by simply thinking about baseball - is something I'd love to get back. None of the more adult baseball activities (fantasy baseball and what-have-you) have quite returned me to that feeling.
After watching the first couple of Indians spring training games, this year, more than ever, that childlike wonder feels in reach. I ordered a box of trading cards today, and I might just go and uproot my binders of old players from whatever closet I have them languishing in. My nostalgia seems to be riding as high as the aspirations of the Indians this year.
Maybe I'll have to have a kid or two of my own and live vicariously through them in order to ever fully reacquire that child's glee for baseball. This year, though, I'm embracing the giddiness of a hopeful season, with a team that toes the line between professional and fun, in a sport that transcends age brackets.